After Dec. 6, adults over age 21 will be able to carry up to one ounce of marijuana for personal use, in accordance to the provisions of I-502.
This was information helpfully provided by the Seattle Police Department shortly after elections returns from Nov. 6 indicated the initiative was headed for passage, and Gig Harbor law enforcement intends to follow those guidelines.
According to Gig Harbor Police Chief Mike Davis, come Dec. 6, police officers will cite anyone 21 years and older who is found to carry over the quantity limit of one ounce, and anyone underaged.
In Pierce and King counties, prosecutors have already said defendants who are 21 years or older and charged with marijuana possession of 1 ounce or less will have their cases dismissed, according to The New Tribune.
However, City of Gig Harbor’s prosecuting attorney Stan Glisson said he has no plans to dismiss any current cases based on the change in the law.
“If the act was a crime at the time it was committed, then I think it is appropriate for my office to continue prosecution,” Glisson said. “I analogize it to a minor in possession case, where the defendant turns 21 prior to trial; if they drank now, it would be legal – but it wasn’t then.”
Beyond Dec. 6, municipalities across the state are waiting for further information and direction. The state Liquor Control Board has said it would take up to a full year to fully implement the rules for marijuana sales and taxation.
A recent meeting Gov. Chris Gregoire had with Deputy Attorney General James Cole at the U.S. Department of Justice regarding the initiative that illustrated how unsettled the issues surrounding the initiative were. A statement from Gregoire's office dated Nov. 13 indicated: "The governor asked the Department of Justice to clarify their position as many questions remain. In turn, as the state begins the implementation process, we will convey to them any problems or concerns."
“Obviously marijuana enforcement is going to change dramatically after the 6th, and [Chief Davis] and I are working diligently on making sure that we are prepared and informed when that comes,” added Glisson.
The DUI Provision
One of the more controversial aspects of I-502 that drew opposition from pro-legalization groups centered around the qualifications around when someone would be cited and arrested for driving under the influence of marijuana. A standard of 5 ng/mL of active THC in the bloodstream was set to determine whether someone might be under the influence.
Sensible Washington, one pro-legalization group that opposed I-502, warns that the 'per se' qualification means law enforcement will base guilt on blood level of THC and not impairment and could potentially "ensnare" innocent people -- particularly medical marijuana patients. The rationale is that THC can linger in the blood stream hours after consumption when an individual no longer exhibits signs of impairment.
Countering that concern is New Approach Washington, responsible for the I-502 campaign, who in a fact sheet (see attached) points out there is already a 'per se' provision as it relates to alcohol offenses. "Having a breath/blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 is 'per se' (in and of itself) DUI, even if you are an experienced drinker and feel you can drive safely at 0.08 BAC."
The fact sheet also details the difference between active THC and the inactive carboxy-THC: levels of the former drop significantly a few hours after consumption; carboxy-THC, which has been used in the past to convict marijuana users, is not to be considered in determining THC concentration for purposes of the per se limit.
The current lack of certainty prompted Sensible Washington to outline some cautionary tips for those who would follow the legal provisions of I-502. They include:
- Never drive with a cannabis-friendly bumper sticker
- Do a quick inspection of your vehicle, making sure there are no obvious problems, like broken taillights.
- Make sure that you do not smell like cannabis when you leave the home – use deodorant, perfume, etc., even if you haven’t smoked in hours. The slightest scent could give the officer reason to test your blood, and to assume you’ll be above the 5, or 0 ng/ml limits.
- Be cautious when driving with any amount of cannabis on your person, even if it’s under an ounce. Possessing even a gram is enough probable cause for an officer to search you, and test your blood.
- Understand that even if you consumed cannabis days ago, you may not be safe, and should take these precautions. Active THC lingers in the body for days, and we have no home test for individuals to determine if they’re below 5ng/ml before they drive.
Follow news from the Washington State Liquor Control Board as implementation progresses, and view the full text of I-502 at www.liq.wa.gov/marijuana/I-502.